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Carcinogenic ‘forever chemicals’ found in England’s drinking water samples

Toxic forever chemicals, which never break down in the natural environment or the human body, have been found in drinking water supplies in England.

Although we typically stray from doomsday-type news on Fridays, the fact that England’s drinking water is confirmed to contain toxic forever chemicals is the kind of information we have to share.

A recent report from the UK’s Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI) has found that hundreds of drinking water samples across England contain perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), a substance used in cosmetics, clothing, food packaging, and firefighting foams.

In other words, the products we use to make daily life more convenient are leaving us worse off.

According to an exclusive report by The Guardian, the substance, along with others in its chemical family known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), has been banned in the country.

However, the ban came too late, as PFAs fall under the category of ‘forever chemicals’ which never break down in the natural environment or the bodies of humans and animals.

In other words, they are here to stay in our drinking water (and inside us, inevitably) – unless governing bodies identify ways to efficiently eliminate them from our resources.

The DWI analysed approximately 12,000 samples from drinking water sources in the UK.

All of them contained some form of PFA. The highest concentration of PFOA detected in a drinking water source was 149 nanograms per litre. This level is 1.5x the organisation’s maximum limit for tap water.

Numerous studies have linked exposure to PFA chemicals to various cancers and immunodeficiencies. They also cause harm to child development and reproductive systems in humans. Because our bodies cannot metabolise forever chemicals, they build up inside of us over time.

The WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified PFOA as a ‘category one’ substance, meaning it is carcinogenic to humans.

The British government has been accused being slow to act on the presence of PFAS in local water sources when compared to the EU. The EU is currently in talks to create stricter regulation across all 10,000 or so of the substances.

‘UK regulations and environmental standards must keep pace with the scientific and medical evidence to protect our drinking water and us,’ said Dr Patrick Byrne from Liverpool John Moores University.

According to scientists at a chemical-focused NGO called Fidra, PFAS are into foetuses as they develop in the placenta of pregnant mothers.  Newborns are also exposed to PFAs through breastmilk, resulting in elevated cholesterol and poor glucose metabolism in children.

The immune system also takes a hit from exposure to PSAs, decreasing resilience towards infectious diseases and increasing the risk of cancer development when immune cells do not function well enough to repair or eliminate abnormal cells in the body.

It will be up to the government to create stricter regulations on toxic forever chemicals, as well as water companies to engage in regular testing of water supplies across England.

Until then, it seems that drinking from plastic water bottles is the safest bet, which obviously, is not good for the planet and contributes to the issue of water pollution itself.